With each stand-up milestone in Hannibal Buress’ career, he’s become less slacker-cool in his delivery. On his 2010 debut album My Name Is Hannibal, Buress kicked up the ferocity, really punching the punchlines of stories about the pickle juice he flicks on his sandwiches (“for flavor”). Animal Furnace oozes even more confidence. He speaks quickly and pointedly, swapping pickle juice for bottles of Absolut gifted to him by an eager Chicago club owner. The subtext of Animal Furnace is that Buress (a former writer for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock) has gone and found himself a bit of fame. But though it creeps into the subject matter of his observations, he works hard to keep that in the background. He’s still the same goofy guy who would channel his nausea into a “hadouken,” or name an album Animal Furnace just for the ridiculous rhyme.
Animal Furnace takes place largely in airports and hotel rooms—the domain of a working comic. The people Buress meets traveling are of the carnival-freak variety. He talks about a woman he met in Scotland who attempted a “passive burglary,” lambasts Montreal cops for their excessive jaywalking protocol, and complains that cocaine only fazes the TSA when it’s potentially “powdered water.” Meeting Jimmy Carter on a plane is a chance for Buress to lament not giving him a fist bump, because the guy’s basically a petri dish of handshake-spreading bacteria.
Mostly, Buress spends a lot of time venting. It’s mostly harmless, like when his debit card was stolen and used at Chuck E. Cheese’s—twice!—or when he obsesses over the Young Jeezy lyric, “My rooms got rooms.” (“Nah Jeezy, those are closets.”) But he doesn’t always pick the proper battles. He performed at a college two years ago, and the school’s paper wrote an article so inane, Buress dissects it sentence-by-sentence, finding fodder in its use of the phrase “comedic jokes.” Sure, the article sucks, but Buress’ mockery feels misplaced.
When he makes himself the target, Animal Furnace becomes Buress’ way of checking in on his career. His invite to a Chicago club, a place he doesn’t really fit in, ends with him getting kicked out. He’s far more worried about losing his McGriddle sandwich in an airport than his passport. And discussing his stand-up with his cousin, who hates it, leads to an extended riff on Buress’ masturbation techniques, which includes wearing a hoodie to “feel creepier.” Animal Furnace captures Buress’ struggle with the trappings of recognition while simultaneously elevating his status with phrases like “masturbation hoodie.” Nobody but Buress could pull that off.